Opinion
Education Letter to the Editor

What Added ‘Value’ Is Being Measured?

December 07, 2004 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

Regarding your article on “value added” testing (“‘Value Added’ Models Gain in Popularity,” Nov. 17, 2004): Accurately assessing student learning growth is vital for enhancing educational quality and potentially helpful for improving accountability. However, the unanswered questions about value-added testing go far beyond whether the technology is ready for large-scale implementation. Most fundamental is: What “value” is actually being measured?

Value-added growth models currently being promoted rely almost entirely on student performance on multiple-choice test questions. Yet independent evaluations of state exams have repeatedly found that these items cover only narrow slices of state standards. Typically, what is tested are those facts and simple skills that are easiest and cheapest to measure. Under the high-stakes conditions of state exams and the federal No Child Left Behind law, too often all that is taught is that which is tested.

As a result, the “educational growth” that will be reported is equivalent to measuring the changing length of a child’s arms but not the rest of his of her body. The result is close to valueless because it ignores so much that is important. And in the name of measuring “growth,” children’s learning will be stunted.

There are better ways to evaluate growth, using a richer set of measures and inputs. The Learning Record, for example, uses classroom data gathered by teachers and students as the basis for determining student progress on developmental reading scales. These results can be aggregated for public reporting.

Because Learning Record scales cover a wide range of growth over years, a student could improve significantly yet remain in his or her original level, as is also the case with No Child Left Behind categories such as “basic” and “proficient.” This means that governments might have to give up often spurious precision in order to implement systems that can better inform teachers, students, parents, and the larger community about real learning progress.

Whether policymakers decide to do so will depend on what they, and we, value.

Monty Neill

Co-Executive Director

National Center for Fair & Open Testing

(Fair Test)

Cambridge, Mass.

Events

Budget & Finance Webinar Staffing Schools After ESSER: What School and District Leaders Need to Know
Join our newsroom for insights on investing in critical student support positions as pandemic funds expire.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
How can districts build sustainable tutoring models before the money runs out?
District leaders, low on funds, must decide: broad support for all or deep interventions for few? Let's discuss maximizing tutoring resources.
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
College & Workforce Readiness Webinar
Roundtable Webinar: Why We Created a Portrait of a Graduate
Hear from three K-12 leaders for insights into their school’s Portrait of a Graduate and learn how to create your own.
Content provided by Otus

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: May 8, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: April 17, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: March 20, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: March 13, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read